Namibia….What a Pleasant Surprise!

LOCATION: Docked at Walvis Bay on the SW coast of Africa. Sailing on the Queen Elizabeth from England to Capetown, South Africa

WEATHER: Nice. High 72. Mostly sunny

We docked in Walvis Bay, a port town of about 85,000 people in the country of Namibia. I have to admit I didn’t know much about this new country before. We were not expecting much, but were very pleasantly surprised. Here is its location.

We had splurged on one of the excursions offered by the ship. We had reservations on the Sandwich Harbor 4X4 trip at noon. So, with the morning free, we took a shuttle from the ship to a shopping mall. I was surprised to see a vibrant community with no obvious poverty. The mall had a few shops, but more importantly offered a coffee shop with wifi. (Hence, the last grouping of blog and Facebook posts.)

On our way back to the ship, we stopped at this little market where locals were selling some of their handiwork.There were 48 who had signed up for our trip. We were split into 8 groups of 6 each, in various 4×4 jeeps. It is customary to travel in convoys in case one of the jeeps gets into trouble.

Our first stop was a bay where there are thousands of pink and white flamingos. Just beautiful…Then, a few miles to Africa’s largest salt producers. There are hundreds of acres of flooded areas where salt is mined. This is our jeep driver showing us one of the salt rocks..in the pink water…After about a mile, the hardened salt road ended and we started our off-road adventure. Away we go!!!

We followed the beach, driving just inches from the sea. We passed several seals sunbathing, and a jackal just waiting to grab one of the seal babiesThe entire area is a national park. We stopped at a pit stop where our driver cautioned us that this would be our only opportunity for a toilet.Then the fun really began. Our convoy turned inland toward the massive sand dunes. We went up and down – like a roller coaster.. Some of the angles were more than 45 degrees. A bit scary.One of the jeeps got stuck going up one of the steep dunes, and had to back up and start again. The trick is to zoom up fast.

We stopped at Sandwich Harbor. This entire coastline is called the Skeleton Coast, as so many ships in the past crashed along the seashore.Another stop was an unexpected lunch. The jeep drivers brought out tables, nibbles, beer, wine, pop, and water. Quite civilized in the middle of the desert!Our driver/guide was quite good. He spoke English to us, but Africaans to the other jeep drivers.

On our way back from the 4-hour trip, we passed some springbok and these ostriches….One of the other guests in our 6-person jeep was one of the lecturers from the ship. She is a well-known BBC reporter, and has presented lectures from her reporting in Afghanistan, Korea, and Russia. She seemed very nice, and politely reminded me to fasten my seat belt during the scariest parts of our dune excitement.

Back on board, we showered, and shook out about a cup of sand from our shoes. The cruise offers each of us comfy terrycloth bathrobes. We popped open the bottle of champagne that I had won dancing one night, and celebrated the end of a very nice afternoon.The captain makes general announcements every day. Today she spoke about the demographics of the ship’s population. Of the 1900 guests, about half are Brits. Next is Australians with about 25%, and the rest of us represent 25 countries. There are 30 Americans; we have met 4. About half of the 1000 crew are from the Phillipines. The others come from 47 different countries, with just one from the USA. Quite an international group!

DINNER: George had beef and I had a vegetarian Indian biryani. We chatted excitedly with our tablemates who had taken different excursions today and compared notes.We went to a comedy show, and then an early night.

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